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Sixty Seconds with: Catherine Connolly

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest and final Flash! Friday winner is Catherine Connolly.  A longtime Flash! Friday writer, Poised Pen writing group member, and even a one-time guest judge here!, she’s undoubtedly familiar to all of you. Her win this week, especially as her first and our last, couldn’t be more perfect. Please take a moment to read her winning story on her winner’s page here or at the bottom of today’s interview, then take another couple of minutes to get to know her better below. Since it’s our final Sixty Seconds interview, I’ve lifted the word count restriction. Dearest Catherine, take it away!

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece?  Dragons – given the timing of this week’s nostalgic bidding! I couldn’t resist working backwards from the last line, given it seemed so appropriate.  I’ve also been fascinated by the concept of word worlds and the interaction between words and the reader since studying Stylistics a couple of years back, so put a slight spin on that in light of the photo prompt.  Having combined the two in terms of concept, the piece wrote itself very easily after that.

2) How long have you been writing flash? For a couple of years, after @zevonesque brought several pieces of his flash to Poised Pen meetings and Flash! Friday was mentioned.  I’ve been writing flash fiction consistently ever since.

3) What do you like about writing flash?  Many things!  Initially, I began writing flash as a variation on the ‘little and often’ method of writing to produced finished pieces within reasonable timeframes and to make them manageable, as my previous writing had been sporadic and I hadn’t written consistently, save for essays whilst studying, for a number of years.  The brevity of flash still appeals to me and encourages me to think carefully about word choice – and how many I really need!  I do think, however, the changing prompts challenge me to write stories outside of my norm, which stretches me as a writer.   There are certainly a number I would never have attempted had it not been for a specific prompt which encouraged me to think at a slant in terms of genre or style.  Flash is also great for experimenting with form to great effect – I’ve seen great examples of this from both Josh Bertetta and Karl A. Russell previously.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers?  Write many and often. Read many and often. Repeat.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why?  Too many FlashDogs to mention, so each and every member of the Pack. Talented writers, all and thoroughly lovely people – a number of whom I’ve been lucky enough to meet in person now on more than one occasion.  A special shout out to FDHQ too – both past and present – for all of their work to date and for producing a number of fabulous anthologies to highlight the work of the Pack.  They work incredibly hard and it is always appreciated.  The Poised Pen people – my writing group – are also a great and friendly bunch.  Some of the FlashDogs have met a number of them too now!  @zevonesque was actually the first person to introduce me to the concept of flash fiction, Flash! Friday as a community (and Twitter too!) and is a great advocate for flash as a form, as well as a thoroughly seasoned judge for a number of the well-known competitions.  None of my flash fiction would be here, save for all of their original encouragement, for providing a supportive community of writers and, sometimes, prompting me to read or share at meetings!

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which?  As many as possible, time allowing. Flash! Friday aside, currently mainly Angry HourglassLuminous Creatures (which I understand is coming back for another round in January-February). Previously, Three Line Thursday and Microbookends (not nearly as often as I would have liked), plus others now sadly missed (Mid-Week-Blues-Buster, Race the Date, Trifecta, anyone?).

7) What other forms do you write? Poetry on occasion and short stories.  I’ve also got the beginnings of what I think is likely to be a novelette sitting in a Word file on my computer for expansion.   I’d actually love to try writing a script or play at some point, subject to the right idea presenting itself to me!

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? Dark, speculative fiction or mythologically based stories.  It’s great fun to write your own rules as you’re going along!

9) Tell us about a WIP. I’ve been working on contributions for pending FlashDogs and Poised Pen anthologies.  Flash and poetry – with a drabble to complete!  A couple of flash pieces are calling for expansion too.  Currently, however, an idea for a world made up of of nightmares and a child protagonist is whispering itself to me…

10) How do you feel about dragons? Their Mother has created an incredible community and nurtured numerous fledgling writers with her time, energy and generosity.  Thank you, Rebekah.  Now it’s for all of us to fan the flames, to continue to support one another and carry on sending our stories out into the world.

♥♥♥

Catherine’s winning story:

Through Lettered Lands

There’s a world of words, they told me.
Mythic in size and proportion.
The magic admits those
who write a sentence on entering,
leaving chocolate drops behind
to mark their route through lettered lands.

Some territories are unknown, they told me.
You must map them yourself,
with other explorers.
They seek you out, supportive,
once you know where to find them.
They run together in packs.

Take care, little wanderer, they told me –
once hunted, few care to return from
the beauty of script scribbled in spaces,
blank, ‘til creation begins.

It expands on arrival, they told me,
so few know how large it’s become,
save for those who’ve travelled since beginning
their journey some long-score prompts passed.

It inhabits hearts and minds, they tell me –
take it wherever you go,
its end starting whole new beginnings,
cartographic creators’ creations,
living inside ever after, full grown.

Explorers seek it, perpetual.

All write on entering –
Here be dragons.

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Sixty Seconds with: Becky Spence

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Becky Spence.  Read her winning story on her winner’s page here, then take one quick (but disturbing!) moment to get to know her better below.

1) What about the prompts inspired your winning piece? The black and white photo reminded me of time I spent developing films in college. I wanted to develop this.

2) How long have you been writing flash? I guess just over a year intentionally. I’ve always had an interest in writing and decided to share it.

3) What do you like about writing flash? I really enjoy the brevity. Leaving the story open to interpretation from the reader.

4) What flash advice would you give other writers? Be flexible; the story has a mind of its own. Don’t try and stop it.

5) Who is a writer we should follow, and why? Simon Salento – Recently ‘I wake up early in the morning’ stuck with me, really worth following his blog.

6) Do you participate in other flash contests, and which? I take part in prompts on twitter and enjoy writing for paragraph planet (75 word stories).

7) What other forms do you write? I enjoy writing poetry, particularly Haiku. I also write articles and for websites in my real world job.

8) What is/are your favorite genre(s) to write, and why? I’m not really genre specific. If a story grabs me then I’ll write it.

9) Tell us about a WIP. I’m working on a collection of 72 word stories, capturing brief moments in everyday life. So far I’ve got 40ish done.

10) How do you feel about dragons? One of my favourite films growing up was Flight of Dragons, so have a fondness there.

Sixty Seconds IV with: Marie McKay

Ten answers to ten questions in 20 words or fewer. That’s less time than it takes to burn a match*.

(*Depending on the length of the match and your tolerance for burned fingers, obviously)

Matchlight

Our newest Flash! Friday winner is Marie McKay.  She’s one of those rare and beautiful writers who has been with us from the beginning (her first week was Year One, Week 26!). Today marks her FOURTH win, and we couldn’t be more thrilled for her. Take a moment to read her bio & her winnings stories here. Then take another minute or two to get to know her better below. (Note that four-time winners are never held to the word count rule!)

1) What about the 100 Years of Solitude prompts inspired your winning piece?  The words ‘inescapability of family’ really triggered my story. The world of Carers, I am one myself, can be riddled with contradiction and guilt. It’s very easy to feel guilty when you need time to yourself; after all, you love the very person you need time away from. It quite often takes an outsider to tell you it’s acceptable to be kind to yourself. Carers and the job they do can go unnoticed. I do think societies need to look after their Carers.

2) You’ve been writing with us since Year One, and this is your 4th (!!) win. Tell us about your flash fiction journey. I started on a site called CAKE which was a wonderful site for new writers. On that site, I ‘met’ SJ O’Hart who had written on FF, so I quickly joined in. My stories do tend to be dark, and I do like the spaces to do some of the work. I think I’ve developed my style to a degree, but there’s a long way to go. I like to experiment with form – and I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea – but playing safe all the time in flash seems to me like a wasted opportunity.

3) You’ve written SO MUCH flash with FF. What are a couple of your favorite prompts (and/or favorite stories of others’ and/or yours that rose from them)?  Oh, I could be here forever! I loved Jacki Donnellan’s Flashversary winning story. Jacki’s writing style is crisp and beautiful. I loved Casey Rose Frank’s story ‘She Walks‘ that was in response to the Pilgrim’s Progress novel prompt. It is haunting and clever. All of Chris Milam’s winning stories (any of his stories, in fact). Steph Ellis’ first winning story, ‘Holiday Deals‘ (I was runner up that week, but I’m not bitter because her story booted mine right out of the dragon’s lair.) Mark A. King’s ‘The Dance of the Origami Girl and the Porcelain Boy‘ is breathtaking. Prompts I loved, a photo of two women in safety glasses, allowed me to write one of my own winning stories,’The Factory.’ The picture prompt of the three guys looking at fish tanks along with the word prompt ‘farmer’ caused quite a stir, and it allowed me to write a story that was a blatant tribute to Flash Friday and its High Dragoness. But as I said, I could go on forever.

4) What’s going on in your writerly life? During the summer, I had the privilege of meeting Sarah Miles who writes at FF and runs the publishing company Paper Swans Press. I was included in their anthology ‘Schooldays.’ I had the great pleasure of reading my flash piece at the Edinburgh Book Festival, as a result. And now, I am currently working on my Flashdogs anthology stories!

5) Flash is so different from how it was a few years ago–so many writers these days are SO GOOD. How can writers take their flash to the next level? Stay away from cliche.

6) What’s a writerly bad habit you have (or used to have) that you’ve overcome (or are working to overcome)? I think the problem I need to overcome more than anything is confidence. I constantly battle with a voice inside my head that tells me I am a terrible writer and that I am kidding myself that  I can be at all successful. And even as I write this, I am thinking, ‘hey maybe that voice is right.’ {Editor’s Note: WRONG. And a pound in the Self-Deprecation Jar, please.} It has stopped me from buckling down and finishing longer projects. 

7) What have you read lately that you really loved, and why? The Girl with All the Gifts’ by Mike Carey is wonderful. It is like reading a horror version of Roald Dahl’s ‘Matilda.’ It is terrifying, dark and incredibly touching. ‘Girl on the Train’ is another great read. The unreliable narration makes for a gripping story. I am reading ‘The Children Act’ by Ian McEwan, at the moment. I think every writer should read Sebastian Faulk’s ‘Birdsong’, Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ and Ian Bank’s ‘Wasp Factory.’ I say this because I think each of them has a very interesting narrative technique- and they are just plain good.

8) Name drop for us! who are some writers in this community you’re always excited to read? who are we going to see on the bestseller lists? Well, this one is difficult because, obviously, I cannot name all of the writers I admire in the FF community, there are too many. I love all the Flashdogs, of course. I will only be able to name a few, here: Rebekah Postupak, Mark A. King, David Barrowdale, Grace Black and Rebecca J Allred. These four are terrific writers themselves and are so very generous with their own time. Chris Milam and SJ O’Hart  are incredibly talented writers whose work I can only admire. Steph Ellis, Catherine Connolly and Brett Milam have such beautifully dark imaginations. Voima Oy, Casey Rose Frank, Foy Iver, F.E. Clark and Tamara Shoemaker for their poetic prose. It truly does go on… and on… and on.

9) Do you belong to any IRL writing communities? online? Talk about the Flash Dogs! I only participate online. I take part in a few competitions other than this one: Three Line Thursday, Micro Bookends and The Angry Hourglass. A writing community that I am very proud to be a part of is Flashdogs. They are an incredibly supportive and welcoming group of talented writers. They have inspired me immensely.

10) Final thoughts/comments/encouragement/advice for the community? My final thoughts, well, I think it’s probably obvious that I am about to tell you how much I am going to miss Flash! Friday. It has been a big part of my writerly life for a long time. However, I cannot remain sad for too long when I think of FF, because I am truly joyous at the opportunities it has given me and other writers. Rebekah Postupak, you are a truly gifted writer who has given so much of your time to others. The foresight and imagination it took to come up with the site at all is part of the reason I consider you a leader in flash. The other reasons are manifold. Whenever I’ve had the privilege of reading your work, I have seen how stylish, versatile and effortless your writing is. You have been a teacher. I have read every Flash Points you were kind enough to share, and your knowledge of flash fiction and literature, in general, is staggering. You have championed all of us, when indeed you, yourself, are The Champion. I am forever indebted. Thank you.